I often get caught up making even the smallest decisions. Like, stopped, dead in my tracks. When did picking a place for dinner become such a chore? I mean, seriously, you decide, I DON'T CARE.
This is why we look to instructors to tell us how to work out, and why we dread picking a movie on netflix. We just want someone to tell us what to do; we want a break from all the decisions. I get stuck on things like what to cook and which to-do to tackle first. Sometimes I just want to stop adulting for a while. And sometimes I just can't get anything done, kinda like I talked about a few months ago in my post One Thing At A Time.
As I discussed then, to truly prioritize something means focusing solely on that one thing, and putting the rest on autopilot. So this is the other side of that post, the autopilot part. The part where we save all our decision-making energy for the most important stuff, and let everything else fall to routine. Because decision fatigue is a real thing, and just like a tired muscle, the more we push it past the point of exhaustion, the worse that muscle will perform (#baddecisions). This is why you're too beat to pick a place by the time dinner rolls around, and why nothing good happens after 2am. (Bonus points if you get that reference.)
I’ve been cramming a lot into my days lately; this is nothing really new for me, yet somehow it feels like this must be the most busy I’ve ever been. But maybe it’s not the most busy, maybe it’s just the most decision-filled. And while there's nothing I want to give up, I can find some balance and keep my sanity by simplifying. By creating a routine I allow that one thing to get the attention it deserves without sacrificing all the other things I consider essential.
On Monday nights I prep meals for the week. Because I've set aside this time to cook, I can enjoy my weekend and not worry about when it’s going to get done. The rest of my dinners (and lunches) are that much simpler, too, and on especially busy weeks I just hit all my go-to recipes. I keep it super simple so I know I’m eating well but saving my mental energy for something else.
I write my blog posts every Wednesday. In theory I’d love to get them done earlier in the week, but this is what works for me, and the routines we set need to be realistic. Knowing that I’ll do it Wednesday frees up any pressure or guilt I might put on myself to get it done Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.
Best of all, Thursday is pizza night! Because the bulk of my work is done and I’ve been making decisions all week and I don’t want to make another one. Having this “treat” built into my week is not only something to look forward to, but it takes a whole mental step out of that day for me, making it that much more relaxing and enjoyable. Plus it takes any stress or guilt out of the choice to enjoy some of my favorite food. I used to deliberate over most of my meals – am I eating dairy right now? Or gluten? Should I have a beer? Decide once what you do and don’t want to eat - and how often - and stick to those guidelines so that each meal doesn’t become a big stressful decision or source of guilt.
Routines make for nice little traditions, too, like when I meet my BFF for a drink mid-week. We go to the same place, and we both order the same drink every time, because it’s always tasty and I don’t even want to look at the menu. We’re just there to chill out and catch up together, no extra thinking necessary.
Making a decision and sticking to it is especially important when it comes to exercise and self-care. We leave these plans open-ended figuring we’ll squeeze it in around whatever else comes up that week, but then it never happens and we beat ourselves up for skipping it.
I try to stick to the same weekly yoga/workout schedule, and usually commit to those classes at the beginning of each week. I have *thoroughly* enjoyed ClassPass for the last year, and loved the variety of studios and classes it offers, but it takes a lot of my decision-making energy to choose and hop around like that. Sometimes fewer options is better, so I'm buying a package at just one studio; I'll know where I’m going and that there's only so many classes to choose from. By simplifying and committing to a schedule, there is no decision to make, yet I know I'll have time for something that is super important to me.
But that's the trick to the whole routine approach: you have to stick to it. This time is for YOU. Schedule it as you would make plans with a friend, and don’t bail on the plans you made with yourself. Don’t leave it open thinking that if something better comes along, you’ll just catch a different yoga class. Would you do that to your friend?! No. Honor the commitments you make to yourself, whatever it is you’re trying to get done. Remember you already decided on it once - for good reason - don't reopen the case and expend your energy reconsidering.
I know what you might be thinking – this routine lifestyle sounds pretty boring; perhaps monotonous, even. But by taking control of your schedule and making sure you get the most important things in there, you have a much better sense of how much free time you have, and that free time becomes less burdened by your "shoulds" or to-do's. You’re not always harping on yourself, “I should get home and do this” because you know there’s time set aside for it. By autopiloting all the “big rocks” in our lives, we free up mental space for the new, exciting, and creative stuff. And that’s typically where the excitement lies, anyway.
While I'm a big fan of change - of stirring the pot - I shift into routine mode when things get a little extra hectic, when I need to get shit done, or commit to a new habit. So if you’re feeling crunched or just exhausted from decision fatigue, consider making all your decisions once, and then never thinking about them again. Make your plan for the day or week early in the morning, before your decision-making muscles get tired from all the "grande-or-venti" type of choices you make during the day. And since making plans and getting organized is my favorite thing to do, hit me up if you want some help. In a quick 30-minute call we can identify your "big rocks" and set a schedule that you won't have to think about all week.
What’s one thing you can autopilot today? Share in the comments below!